"Andalusia and flamenco are two concepts which cannot be separated, and neither one can be fully understood apart from the other." This statement from Juan Polvillo, one of Seville’s leading dance teachers, perhaps best explains why so many aficionados from all over the world come to the city to study flamenco.
If you want to dance you have to come to Seville. The teachers are there. The atmosphere is there, is a common belief held by many students who study the dance form. Often you can be in a bar and a small group with a guitar will just start playing and people will start to dance. There is a passion and a naturalness about flamenco in Seville that you just do not find anywhere else.
Many students find it difficult to study flamenco in their own country. There are few dance schools outside Spain, and if a student wants to progress they have to travel to Spain, and Seville in particular. Some of the greatest teachers of flamenco teach or have taught in Seville. The Andulusian city is, after all, the birthplace of flamenco.
There are many forms of flamenco. These include, the Tango, Bulería, Alegría, Garrotín, Guajira, Tango de Málaga, Solea por Bulería, Caña, Seguiryia, Tiento, Sevillanas, and the Rondeña. Each form has its own choreography anc there are various parts to each dance such as the letra, the escobilla and the silencio.
Schools normally have classes of between ten and thirty students. The classes specialise in the different techniques with lessons that allow students to master the use of the arms, the practice of footwork, and turns.
Schools also teach the techniques of the Bata de cola, the traditional skirt, and the Mantón de Manila, or shawl, in forms such as the Solea, Alegría, and Solea por Bulería. To complement dances such as the Guajiras, Alegrías and Caracoles, students also learn traditional fan techniques. The compás, or rhythm, is integral to each form and students learn to distinguish the different types of compás from the simpler rhythms of tangos to the more complicated rhythms of the bulerías. Many classes have guitar accompaniment.
Typical courses last two weeks and cost around three hundred Euros. The price normally includes three hours tuition every day, Monday to Friday, with other classes of compás y palmas, the handclapping.
Besides the cost of the course, and the necessary airfare to Seville, students must find suitable accommodation for their arrival. For most students who have no contacts in the city the Internet is one of the easiest ways to find a place to stay. Many students find accommodation through many of the local websites. The amount that you pay for accommodation depends on whether you want a one-bedroom apartment or the cheaper alternative of a shared flat or a stay with a family.
A typical private room in shared accommodation in the centre of the city close to the schools will cost around two hundred and fifty Euros a month. This compares very favourably with even the cheapest hotel accommodation in one of the city’s many pensions. Prices rise during Semana Santa, the Easter Holy Week, and during the city’s spectacular Feria, the traditional April Fair, when tens of thousands of extra visitors descend on this vibrant city.
Flamenco is a wonderful way of making friends and meeting people from all over the world who share a common interest. Many classes will have students from as far afield as Slovakia, Czechoslovakia, Turkey, Switzerland, Germany, and France. The Japanese are also very interested in flamenco and most courses have some Japanese students.
With so many nationalities, language is not essential, though for taking the classes it does help if you speak some Spanish. Students are normally advised to relax, listen, look and learn. They are also told not to worry about the lessons too much and just enjoy the experience. Most of the students who have the energy and the obsession for flamenco go to Seville and most have a great time.
Obsession is a word that is as synonymous with flamenco as Seville and Andalusia. For many students flamenco becomes a little bit of an obsession. Like drugs, it gets inside you. It comes from the soul. Great dancers have an extra, almost indescribable something known as "duende". It translates roughly as soul or spirit and it’s been described as the artist becoming the dance, instead of the artist doing the dance.
Most students would agree that flamenco is a passion. It is something that you have to have in your soul. Many students have said that once they have seen it once they just have to do it. They can’t stop. For many it gets to deep inside their soul.
Flamenco and Andalusia are inseparable and obsession plays a big part. While Seville exists, flamenco will exist, and students will flock to the city in their thousands each year to satisfy that something in flamenco that searches for everything, all their weaknesses, all their strengths. It is this something that can only be defined as "wonderful" that will keep flamenco forever alive.
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